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3D printing support for ventilator production

The world’s fastest digital manufacturer of prototypes and low-volume production parts is using its 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding expertise to support the frontline fight against Covid-19.

Protolabs, which employs over 450 people at its European headquarters in Telford, has played a key role in supporting Italian engineers in the conversion of ‘Easybreath’ snorkelling equipment into ventilator masks.

3D printed ‘Charlotte’ valves are being rapidly produced and shipped direct to its customer Isinnova, who are producing kits that can be used to create a non-invasive ventilator mask that will help save lives.

The company is also urgently working with a highly multiplexed molecular diagnostics specialist to produce a series of plastic cassettes that will help house a critical medical solution used in testing for Covid-19.

AusDiagnostics approached Protolabs to see if it could injection mould 500 sample parts, a challenge that was immediately picked up by the Shropshire-based on-demand manufacturer.

The first CAD drawings were not fit for manufacture so were quickly updated and the right material specified, with production now underway with parts set to shipped by April 9th.

“We’re currently working on a number of customer projects that are critical to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Bjoern Klaas, Vice President and Managing Director of Protolabs Europe.

“The ‘Charlotte’ valve in Italy is already having a really positive impact on the challenge faced by medical staff and the wider society, whilst our latest involvement with AusDiagnostics is crucial in the national ramp up of testing for the virus.”

He continued: “The tests will be used by over 20 large NHS trust hospitals in the UK, as well as medical diagnostics centres across Europe. The customer makes almost 200 kits a day, but this figure will increase rapidly to meet the demand for more testing, with our injection moulding line ready to manufacture 20,000 cassettes every quarter.

“Digital manufacturing provides incredible speed of development and continues to be essential in equipping frontline staff with the solutions they need.”

Protolabs provide critical design, engineering and manufacturing services to medical supply chains, telecommunications providers, energy companies, water treatment services and other sectors critical to keep society moving.

The company will continue to remain operational across its UK and German manufacturing facilities, ensuring that staff adhere to work from home policies where possible and adopt hygiene and social distancing measures.

Bjoern concluded: “Protolabs employees play a vital role in helping us support the needs of our customers in what is a generation-defining moment. I am extremely proud of the commitment and expertise everyone is showing and I am humbled that, in our own way, we can contribute to saving lives across the world.”

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